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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

It's a Mad Dash; Big Surprises from Arnold; An Epic Fail at the Ryder Cup

Aired October 1, 2012 - 05:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: A mad dash to the end of the race. President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney get ready for a face- off at this week's first debate.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, a couple of big surprises from Arnold Schwarzenegger. He talks candidly about his childhood by a housekeeper and the gay marriages he performed while governor of California.

SAMBOLIN: And so much more.

And an epic fail by the United States. After being up for a significant lead, the guys in the Ryder Cup lose big, Berman.

BERMAN: It was a disaster. Complete meltdown.

Well, still, good morning, and welcome to October, everyone. This is EARLY START. I'm John Berman in Washington this morning.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

You're starting for us this morning, John.

BERMAN: I am. You know, our big story this morning. The countdown to the critical first presidential debate. President Obama and Mitt Romney square off Wednesday night in Denver. Both trying to lower expectations practically gushing over one another, but New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is going against the grain and setting the bar high for the Republican nominee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Every time Mitt Romney has been confronted in this campaign with one of these moments, he has come through in a debate and performed extraordinarily well, laying out his vision very clearly and also contrasting himself with his vision with however his opponent was at that time. So I have absolute confidence when we get to Thursday morning, George, you're going to be shaking your head saying it's a brand new race with 33 days to go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So, you almost actually never hear that from a campaign surrogate, some who says their own candidate will do well in a debate. What on earth was Chris Christie doing?

I'm joined now by CNN political reporter Peter Hamby live from Washington in an undisclosed location at the bureau.

So, Peter what was Chris Christie doing there?

PETER HAMBY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: I have no idea, John. Do you? I mean, this flies in the face of everything the Romney campaign's been trying to do for the last few weeks. His senior adviser Beth Myers put out a campaign memo last week basically saying that the debates weren't going to impact this election and Chris Christie goes out and does what Chris Christie does and that's his own thing.

So, you know, I can tell you the Obama campaign was happy to have Chris Christie raise expectations and raise the bar for Mitt Romney heading into Wednesday's debate, John.

BERMAN: Well, maybe a rare moment of honesty, which is refreshing in a political campaign.

But, Peter, what then are the strategies of both campaigns heading into this debate?

HAMBY: Well, President Obama has been in Nevada a few days during the campaign. He were at a campaign rally last night.

Mitt Romney has been in Boston, Massachusetts, sparring with Ohio Senator Rob Portman who's playing the role of President Obama in these debate prep sessions. For President Obama, his foe Mitt Romney is Massachusetts Senator John Kerry.

So, they've been working on this debate for months and months.

"The New York Times" ahs actually had an interesting story over the weekend, I want to read you a little passage from that about what Mitt Romney's been doing. This is from "The New York Times." it says, "Mr. Romney's team has concluded that debates are about creating moments and has equipped him with a series of zingers he has memorized and has been practicing on aides since August."

Now, they're right debates are about moments but I think it's an amusing image to see Mitt Romney whose sense of humor is quirky to be generous, sitting in a room with aides peppering them with zingers. I would like to be a fly on the wall in the room to see some of that, John.

BERMAN: And the Democrats have jumped all over that, saying that debates aren't about zingers. They are about serious substantive policy.

You know, Peter, we have a brand new poll out this morning from our friends at ABC News and "The Washington Post" that shows a virtual dead heat with the president and Mitt Romney. Obama with a slight edge, 49 percent to 47 percent.

But also in this survey, it delves down into the expectations game for this debate. What can you tell me about those numbers, Peter?

HAMBY: Well, despite what Chris Christie said, you know, and that is sort of another mixed message coming out of the Romney campaign, Romney is winning the expectations game if you look at the polls. According to likely voters, who's more likely to win the debate, President Obama, 55 percent, Mitt Romney just 31 percent of likely voters expect him to win the debate. That's a good place to be for him going in there.

But like you said, there's a lot of stuff in this poll. Sort of mirrors what we've seen in a lot of recent national and state polls.

President Obama has advantages on a range of issues, however, one thing tilting in Romney the direction, and there's interesting phrasing here on this in the poll. Are you confident -- which candidate are you confident will get the country back ton track economically? President Obama, 47 percent, Mitt Romney, 51 percent. Now, Obama's had an edge on the economy in a lot of recent polls by a narrow one, two-point margin. So, not that much difference. Interesting nonetheless Mitt Romney has a little edge there. It's a nice little talking point for this campaign heading into this week, John.

BERMAN: All right. Peter Hamby, live in Washington. Sorry, we couldn't be in the same room, just too much raw energy.

HAMBY: Me, too.

BERMAN: Thank you, Peter.

Moving on now -- the big mystery in Tennessee this morning. Where are two missing siblings, a 9-year-old and 7-year-old brother? Their grandparents were killed in a house fire last week. And first it was believed the children perished as well, but no sign of their bodies found. On Friday, a statewide AMBER alert was issued for them.

SAMBOLIN: The Taliban claiming responsibility for a suicide attack overnight in eastern Afghanistan. Three U.S. service members were among the 12 people that were killed, 50 others were wounded. The bomber targeted a joint NATO-Afghan patrol in Khost City. This after two Americans died including the 2,000th U.S. military member to be killed during the war in Afghanistan.

BERMAN: A judge expected to rule later today on Pennsylvania's controversial voter ID law. It's estimated the law's photo ID requirement to exclude 750,000 people from voting. The law upheld by a lower court earlier this month, but the state Supreme Court ordered the judge to assess whether all eligible voters would be able to obtain the allowable forms of ID.

SAMBOLIN: And the big dig for Jimmy Hoffa's remains turns up more nothing.

BERMAN: Shocking.

SAMBOLIN: I know, really, really shocking. But investigators are waiting for tests on mud and clay samples, John, before declaring it a total dud. They searched under a shed behind a suburban Detroit home on Friday. A tipster claimed he saw what appeared to be a body buried at the site the say after the former teamsters chief disappeared. That was back in 1975.

BERMAN: You are skeptical from the beginning.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, please. I think me and a million other people, right?

BERMAN: All right. Los Angeles has survived Carmageddon 2. The 405 freeway is back open this morning. The intense repair project shut down a ten-mile stretch of Interstate 405 this weekend.

That is one of busiest highways in the nation. L.A. drivers were asked to plan accordingly, but there were no major traffic jams.

SAMBOLIN: That's good news.

Ah, I know. You're distraught over this. An epic collapse by the U.S. at the 39th Ryder Cup. The Europeans roaring back from a deficit late Saturday to stage a breathtaking 4 1/2 to 13 1/2 point win.

Germany's Martin Kaymer sinking a heart-pounding five-foot putt in the final hole to seal the victory. Europe's seventh in the last nine Ryder Cup.

BERMAN: It was awful. It was awful. And the worst part is we have to listen to Piers Morgan gloat about Europe's victory for the next several days.

SAMBOLIN: I know you were in serious mourning. I read all the emails going back as far as I know.

BERMAN: It was terrible. It was a complete and utter meltdown.

And we have one sports item here. Sunday night football. The Super Bowl champion New York Giants, they lost to the Philadelphia Eagles, 19-7, in the clash of NFC powers. The Giants attempted a 54-yard field goal in the closing seconds to win the game, but Lawrence Tynes came up short.

And the Atlanta Falcons still undefeated at 4-0. Matt Ryan's 40-yard field goal with five seconds left giving Atlanta a dramatic 30-28 comeback win over Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. This game was amazing. It featured really two long bombs by Matt Ryan in the closing minutes to even close to winning. It was really extraordinary.

SAMBOLIN: I can't believe you watched it.

BERMAN: You know, I have amazing powers and abilities to watch sports even if it means sacrificing sleep.

SAMBOLIN: All right. And here's another water cooler topic. Arnold Schwarzenegger puts himself in the hot seat, answering questions about his failed marriage, his affair, his love child, and the fact that he performed same-sex marriages while in office.

We're going to hear directly from Arnold, coming up next.

BERMAN: Big.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START. It is 11 minutes after the hour, I think. I'm John Berman live in Washington this morning.

SAMBOLIN: It is indeed, Mr. Berman. You're not seeing things.

I'm Zoraida Sambolin, live back here in New York.

Arnold Schwarzenegger says if his life was a movie, no one would believe it -- from body builder to movie star, to governor of California. It's all in this new book "Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story." It is hitting shelves today.

The book also addresses that affair with his family housekeeper that led to the breakup of his marriage with Maria Shriver. Schwarzenegger spoke about it in an interview with "60 Minutes."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, FORMER CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR/AUTHOR: I think it was the stupidest thing I've done in the whole relationship.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): It was a secret he kept from his wife Maria Shriver and the public for years.

SCHWARZENEGGER: It was terrible. I inflicted tremendous pain on Maria, and unbelievable pain on the kids.

SAMBOLIN: The most painful chapter from Schwarzenegger's new memoir "Total Recall," the moment when he admitted to Shriver that he had father a child behind her back with the family's housekeeper, Mildred Baena.

SCHWARZENEGGER: She then said, "Hey, I think that Joseph is your kid. And am I off on this or not?" And I said, "You're absolutely correct."

SAMBOLIN: Shriver confronted her husband about the affair in a counseling session the day after he left office in 2011. Schwarzenegger admits she raised suspicion before, but he hadn't been truthful.

LESLEY STAHL, "60 MINUTES": So, you lied to her?

SCHWARZENEGGER: You can say that.

SAMBOLIN: Baena remained the couple's housekeeper, working for the woman she betrayed.

STAHL: Even after you realized it? SCHWARZENEGGER: Yes.

STAHL: Was that -- was that strange?

SCHWARZENEGGER: Very difficult, strange. I mean, bizarre. Everything you want to call it but it's the best way I could handle it.

SAMBOLIN: Schwarzenegger writes of a, quote, "hot affair" with actress Brigitte Nielsen, his co-star in the 1985 film "Red Sonja". She was already living with Shriver at the time.

STAHL: She knew?

SCHWARZENEGGER: Yes.

STAHL: So it's a recurring issue with you?

SCHWARZENEGGER: I'm not perfect.

SAMBOLIN: Affairs weren't the only secrets. Schwarzenegger also admits he tried to hide open heart surgery from Shriver and says he didn't tell her about his run for governor until days before he announced it.

SCHWARZENEGGER: She said, shaking, and she had tears in her eyes, that I was stepping into something that was much deeper than just me running and her being a supportive wife.

SAMBOLIN: She ultimately gave up her journalism career to campaign with her husband. Now, years later, his time in office over, Schwarzenegger says he'll also live with the regret of what he did to his family.

SCHWARZENEGGER: That is something that I will always look back and say, how could you have done that?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN: So we tried to get a response from Maria Shriver but her spokesman said there would be no comment.

I'd like to bring in Christopher John Farley. He is the editor of "The Speakeasy" blog for the "Wall Street Journal."

Thanks for being with us.

CHRISTOPHER JOHN FARLEY, EDITOR, WSJ'S "SPEAKEASY" BLOG: Thanks for having me.

SAMBOLIN: So you watched the interview.

FARLEY: Yes.

SAMBOLIN: What I did you think? FARLEY: Well, what I found interesting is the disconnect between Schwarzenegger and his now separated wife Maria Shriver in terms of things are going on in his life and he didn't tell her about. Like, for instance, his planning to run for governor of California, and not telling her until shortly before, even though she is obviously from a storied political family and she presumably has some insight into running for an office like that and how much she gave up to be with him and support his dreams and his career, giving up her TV career temporarily to help support him in his run and really going to bat for him against rumors that he'd groped women, that he'd done these other things. She was there front and center protecting him and he was hiding all this from her, until later on we find out he this affair with his housekeeper and he hid that from her, too.

So, all that was interesting to hear from him directly about these things.

SAMBOLIN: But we didn't hear anything from her, her side of the story. Nowhere do we really understand how she feels about all of these revelations?

FARLEY: No. It's all filtered through him, of course. He's the one being interviewed. He's the one with the new book. He's the one who's launching, re-launching a movie career. So, for now, we're hearing from him and have to hope in the future that Maria Shriver herself will come forward and say here's my take on what happened.

I would have to believe --

SAMBOLIN: Do you think that will --

FARLEY: I have to believe there's more to say from her perspective.

SAMBOLIN: All right. So it's a 656-page book. Have you read it?

FARLEY: I have read it. Not the whole thing --

SAMBOLIN: A lot of people say short and juicy details that we don't really get the juicy details other than some other revelations that he made.

FARLEY: Yes, the earlier reviews I've seen said that, listen, the book is called "Total Recall", but he doesn't seem to recall everything. And from what I saw, he spends a lot of time on his body- building career, a lot of details about that. Details of growing up in Austria.

Something he addressed in the "60 Minutes" interview that's interesting, the fact his father was a Nazi storm trooper yet doesn't discuss that around the house. And so, Arnold Schwarzenegger said that the war wasn't something that came up growing up, what his father was doing or not doing. And so that's something he really didn't have experience with.

SAMBOLIN: You mentioned something that comes up in the book that wasn't in the interview. We have more of that. He was asked about the wedding of his former chief of staff Susan Kennedy, who was a lesbian. So, let's listen to this and then we'll talk about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STAHL: Did you go to the wedding?

SCHWARZENEGGER: I performed the wedding in the office.

STAHL: You married --

SCHWARZENEGGER: I married her in the office, in the governor's office.

STAHL: Then you must be for gay marriage?

SCHWARZENEGGER: I don't have to be for gay marriage. I'm for the chicest kind of wedding and ceremony I had when I got married to Maria. That she happens to love a woman and I am, as a guy has love as woman, that is two different things, it doesn't make any difference. She should still have a ceremony.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Hey, this is from a governor who publicly opposes same-sex marriage. Were you surprised by that?

FARLEY: Well, again, if you read the book and watch the interview, there's a lot of contradiction going on in terms of him publicly advocating one thing or saying one thing to his wife and then going about his business in a different way.

So, he's obviously a man with a lot of contradictions. At one point says he's not perfect. We see it on display again and again in terms it of his private versus public positions or positions in his private life versus things he's telling people in his private life.

SAMBOLIN: OK. John, I was a little surprised about this. In this book, he writes he is optimistic that he and Shriver will come together again. You've read it. What do you make of this? Does he think they're going to get back together?

FARLEY: It makes total sense and when you see the whole picture of his life. Here's a guy that really is a self-made man. A guy that came out of Austria, became the world's foremost body builder, couldn't really speak English without an accent and yet became a huge global movie star. Became the governor of California, and couldn't become president because he wasn't born in this country. But who knows what else he could have done?

So, he has total belief in himself, you see that again and again in the book. It makes total sense. And he thinks, well, maybe some day he can get back with his ex-wife who I betrayed so publicly before.

SAMBOLIN: Would you recommend the book?

FARLEY: It's up to everyone whether to read the book or not, but it's a lot about body building. SAMBOLIN: All right. Christopher John Farley, excuse me, thank you so much for joining us today.

FARLEY: Thank you.

SAMBOLIN: The editor of "Speakeasy" blog at the "Wall Street Journal." Really nice to chat with you about this.

John, to you.

BERMAN: Wow.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, a big wow.

BERMAN: The details of the book, amazing.

All right. Coming up, China's manufacturing industry is slumping. That's right. They said it could happen, but it is. Our own Christine Romans has the details coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. Twenty-three minutes after the hour. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. So, we are minding your business this morning. U.S. stock market futures are up, and European markets are as well. Today marks the start of the new quarter.

Christine has a look at winners and the losers from the last three months. And what we are expecting for the rest of the year in the markets.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning.

SAMBOLIN: Looking at your crystal ball this morning.

ROMANS: Well, I'm looking to what happened in the third quarter. It's interesting because retail investors, people like you and me pulling out of stocks, so nervous all summer. But stock prices keep going up.

I want to show you what happened to the averages. The Dow, up 3.8 percent in the quarter. Year to date, it's up more than 8 percent. The S&P 500, this is what the stock portion of your 401(k) probably most closely marrying, up almost 5 percent in the third quarter. Up almost 13 percent this year.

Look at the NASDAQ. The NASDAQ this year has had unbelievable run. What has done best? Energy, consumer discretion, like luxury, hotels. Things you don't need but want.

Consumer discretionary stocks up 7 percent. Financials have done very well this quarter. Information technology and telecom services.

Fed stimulus is rushing into the market. That's money finding its way into some of these different kinds of stocks and different commodities as well. So, we've seen these things doing better and better.

Stocks and anybody with a mortgage, stock investors, anyone with a mortgage did great in the third quarter, but savers, you have not done well. I want to show you quickly the flip side of this great stock market story, is that you're getting 0.3 percent in a CD.

SAMBOLIN: Terrible.

ROMANS: Point-one percent in a savings account and 0.12 percent in money market account and checking accounts, fees and fines all over the place.

So that's what's happening with your money.

SAMBOLIN: Do you have any idea of the folks affected that way, that decided to go that route? Do we not know?

ROMANS: In CDs and all that kind of stuff?

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

ROMANS: Anybody on a fixed income, elderly people, anybody who's been doing what they're supposed to, which is save, they're getting nothing on their savings.

SAMBOLIN: All right. So, you've got interesting news out of China?

ROMANS: Yes. We're watching this week from China. We've had several manufacturing reports from China that show it was slowing. The reason why manufacturing in China is so important is because over the past generation, China manufacturing has become the barometer of global economic growth. Why? China has fashioned itself into the factory floor for the world, and when China slows down, that tells you that customers are slowing down on their orders.

U.S. is also a big exporter. Very concerned about what that says about the overall slowdown. So, closely watching China.

SAMBOLIN: I know you are. You love all things China.

ROMANS: I do, I do.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you, Christine.

John, back to you.

BERMAN: All right. It is a story we've been following very closely. A Christian girl accused of burns pages of the Koran in Pakistan, she could soon learn her fate. We'll have the latest, just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Loaded guns and a commercial. Coming up, how the firearms made into the aircraft, and you'll never believe who was allowed to bring them on. SAMBOLIN: Plus, it is debate time in America. Mitt Romney and President Obama are getting their talking points in order, and fine tuning their arguing skills.

BERMAN: And remember the girl who was pranked by being voted into the homecoming court? Well, she got the last laugh. We are very happy.

SAMBOLIN: I've got to tell you, John, that is one of my favorite stories.

BERMAN: Good for her. Good for her.

SAMBOLIN: Great ending. Yep.

BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman, live in Washington this morning.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. I'm live in New York City. It is 30 minutes past the hour. President Obama and former governor Mitt Romney getting ready for a make-or-break primetime event. After a campaign rally last night, the president went to a resort just outside of Vegas to start last-minute preps for the debates. Senator John Kerry, his Mitt Romney's stand-in, said to be traveling with the president to Denver, where the first debate takes place on Wednesday. And of course you can watch it here, live, right on CNN.

On the other side, Mitt Romney's campaign switching up tactics over the weekend, backing away from statements made to downplay his chances at the debates. And with a brand new "Washington Post"/ABC News poll showing the race tight as ever this morning, the stakes high on both sides.

So Rob Brownstein is the editorial director of "The National Journal" magazine and CNN's senior political analyst and he joins me now.

ROB BROWNSTEIN, CNN SR POLITICAL ANALYST: Good morning.

SAMBOLIN: Good morning to you. I know you probably watched everything this weekend. So you know Chris Christie, he didn't get the talking points memo, right? So I want to listen to this and then talk about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE (RD), NEW JERSEY: He's had a tough couple of weeks. Let's be honest. I'm not going to sit here and come on this morning and sugarcoat of the last couple of weeks. They've been tough. But here's the great news for Republicans: we have a candidate who's going to do extraordinarily well on Wednesday night. He's going to contrast what his view is with what the president's record is and the president's view for the future and this whole race is going to be turned upside down come Thursday morning. Wednesday night's the restart of this campaign and I think you're going to see those numbers start to move right back in the other direction.

So I have absolutes confidence that when we get to Thursday morning, George, you'll be shaking your heads saying it's a brand new race.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWNSTEIN: Well, I mean, so much for the lowering of expectations.

SAMBOLIN: No kidding.

BROWNSTEIN: But in fairness to him, Republicans have somewhat incompatible needs heading into the debate. On the one hand, you don't want to overhyping the expectations for Mitt Romney to have some sort of dramatic breakthrough, because the history of debates is that it's not predictable. Some years, they matter and other years they haven't.

On the other hand, with all of the polling particularly the swing state polling being so negative for Romney, Republicans have to gin up their base and say, "Look, this is not over. Don't kind of file the election away. We are still in the game." So in fairness to Chris Christie, he was - he leaned a little more heavily toward the latter of those two --

SAMBOLIN: A little more?

BROWNSTEIN: --at the expense of the former.

SAMBOLIN: Were you surprised at how often and how vigorous he was in saying, hey, this is going to be a gamechanger?

BROWNSTEIN: A little bit. But, again, I mean, I think I kind of understand it, because you look at -yesterday, there was a poll out in Ohio with Obama up 9 points. Saturday in Iowa, up 4 points. In fact, sort of every battleground state, the most recent public poll, every state they're both contesting, President Obama is ahead. So Republicans clearly have to give the message to the troops. "Look, this is -- we are still in this hunt and this is going to about reset moment."

SAMBOLIN: A lot of talk about zingers that perhaps are going to be created by the Mitt Romney team. So "The New York Times" writes, "Mr. Romney's team concluded the debates are about creating moments and has equipped him with a series of zingers he has memorized and has been practicing for days since August."

So we've seen zingers become defining debates in the past - or defining the debates. Let's take a look at a couple of the most memorable ones.

BROWNSTEIN: Zingiest.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: There you go again.

I want you to know that, also, I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent's youth and inexperience. LLOYD BENSTEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:: Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're not Jack Kennedy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: What are the risks and the rewards?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, I think first of all, their analysis is right. As I said, the pattern in presidential debates is there is no pattern. Some years they have mattered a great deal. Some years, remember anything about the 1996 debates between Bill Clinton and Bob Dole? They have not mattered at all. And often when they do matter, it is a moment rather than the overall kind of tenor of the debate and the mastery of the issues - that kind of memorable moment that, even before the word, goes viral and kind of becomes water cooler talk.

So I think they are right there. I mean, the problem is, obviously, is if it looks too staged, it looks too staged. Mitt Romney is someone who one of whose biggest problems with the public is a questioning of his authenticity. So if this kind of comes across as a kind of pre-programmed maneuver, I think it's less effective. But on the other hand, what he does need to do is challenge the frame Bill Clinton built so successfully at the Democratic convention and says, "Look, maybe the economy isn't where you want it to be but it's better, a lot better, than it was when he came into office." That has really changed the race, the frame that Clinton built. Romney has the opportunity to cause voters to kind of look at this through a different lens and that's obviously very important for him.

SAMBOLIN: President Obama is also trying to lower expectations for Wednesday. Here's what he said at a campaign rally in Las Vegas yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mitt Romney, he's a good debater. I'm just OK. But what I'm most concerned about is having a serious discussion about what we need to do to keep the country growing and the source of security for hard-working Americans. That's what people are going to be looking for. That's the debate that you deserve.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: But look at this. Most voters believe that Obama will likely win the debate. Let's put up this poll for folks. Does it hurt him going in as a front-runner?

BROWNSTEIN: You know, my colleague George Condon wrote a terrific piece in "The National Journal" yesterday talking about how often the incumbent stumbled in that first debate. So, yes, I think the expectations are high. And, he's right, he's only - he's a pretty good debater; he hasn't been a great debater.

But there's one thing in what the president said that is really striking. When the year started, really up until the summer, Republicans thought this was simply a referendum on the economy. Voters dissatisfied with the direction of country would be inclined to fire the president. Now they both -- now Republicans have essentially come to agree that that is not going to be enough and they have to win the prospective choice going forward.

So in many ways, I think this debate will be more about the next four years than the last four years and also, for Mitt Romney, his challenge is not so much to make the case against the president, certainly voters are ambivalent as the ABC/Post poll shows us - he has to make the case for himself, because today there is a thin slice of voters not fully satisfied with Obama's first term, who are sticking with him nonetheless because they don't believe Romney either gets their lives, is empathetic to their problems or will make things better in the next four years, and that, I think, above all, is the real challenge for the challenger in this debate.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Ron Brownstein. We're going to talk to you again. Thanks so much. Hope you stick around.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

SAMBOLIN: john, back to you.

BERMAN: All right, thanks Zoraida.

U.S. golf fans are still numb this morning trying to figure out how the coveted Ryder Cup slipped away. This is one of the worst chokes I have ever seen, ever. Call it the "Miracle at Medinah" because the Americans had a seemingly insurmountable 10-4 lead over the Europeans late Saturday afternoon and they wound up on the wrong end of an epic, epic loss.

Honestly, this began late Saturday afternoon. Starting Sunday morning, it was this long slide into this enar oblivion. It was really one of the worst choke we have ever, ever seen. CNN's Shane O'Donoghue, he had the misfortune of watching the whole thing.

SHANE O'DONOGHUE: Well, everything pointed towards an American victory here in the 39th edition of the Ryder Cup. Team USA, of course, had home advantage; they had players who were in fantastic form over the opening two days; and they had a seemingly insurmountable lead. 10-6 they led going into the final day's action but they came up against a European team who were clearly inspired as they bulldozed their way to win 8 1/2 points from a possible 12 for overall victory. The Americans were shell-shocked.

DAVIS LOVE III, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: Phil played great. As I said, Tiger played great. A lot of guys played great and just got beat by a guy that played a little bit better.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was definitely tough losing. Nobody wants to lose but they played better than we did today.

JIM FURYK, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: This compared to '99? That was fun. This was pretty miserable. You know, it was a hell of a lot of fun being on the other end. It wasn't very much fun today.

RORY MCILROY, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: We went out and tried to get points on the board early, get the lead, get on the board and we did that. So we sped through the rest of the team and -- can't believe it. It's just an unbelievable feeling.

O'DONOGHUE: World No. 1 Rory McIlroy nearly didn't make it to the tee Sunday. He apparently mistook Eastern Time for Central Time, so he was an hour behind schedule. There was a lot of frantic scrambling. He hitched a ride in a police car and eventually got here with seven minutes to spare. Oh, and he casually went out on to the course and recorded add 2-1 victory over Keegan Bradley. That's how you do it, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, where's John Berman? You know what, I was in Chicago and I managed to avoid anything that had to do with the Ryder Cup until I started reading your e-mails.

BERMAN: So it's your fault? It was your fault? You were bad luck. You were bad luck. That's what happened here. Honestly, the worst thing ever. The U.S. just couldn't do anything right on Sunday. It was just terrible.

SAMBOLIN: That's too bad. I feel terrible for them, actually, instead of judging them.

BERMAN: Well, we forgive you.

SAMBOLIN: Anyway, when we come back, we're going to talk about a homecoming queen who took a really terrible situation and actually the entire world turned into a shining experience. We'll be back with that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Top of the morning to you, Atlanta. It's a little foggy there. 67 degrees now, cloud and fog continue. A little bit later today it will be 75 degrees. You're going to have rain and thunderstorms today, but I'm going to say welcome back, good morning, welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman in Washington this morning. A Florida Congressman says recent reports that two loaded guns got past airport screeners and onto two flights, reveals what he calls "intolerable security lapses." In one of the cases, New Orleans' Hornets vice president, that's the basketball team, took a loaded handgun on board in his checked baggage. Got it on undetected. In the other instance, a woman brought a firearm onto the plane in her purse. Florida Congressman John Mica, Chairman of the House Transportation Committee, says he gets reports that hundreds of items get by security every day.

SAMBOLIN: Boy, that's scary.

A 14-year-old Christian girl facing blasphemy charges. We'll have to wait at least two weeks to learn her fate. She's accused of burning pages containing text from the Koran and appeared in a Pakistani courtroom today. The Islamabad high court says the hearing should wait while they consider a petition to dismiss the case. Why? Last week, a police investigation found the girl known as Rimsha had been framed by an imam. That imam will appear at a separate court hearing today and he could wind up facing blasphemy charges now.

BERMAN: Over to Syria now. The crisis in Syria will once again be the spotlight on the final day of the 67th United Nations General Assembly session. This morning, Syria's Foreign Minister will address the delegates and defend the Assad regime's actions during the 18- month crisis that spiraled into civil war.

CNN foreign affairs reporter, Elise Labott, joins us now. And, Elise, what are we expecting to hear today?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: John, I think what you're going to hear from Foreign Minister Muallem is a vigorous defense not only of the regime's activities but they're going to say that the regime is facing terrorist activity, that they - kind of lumping opposition and all these peaceful protesters into this whole rebel activity that's fighting the regime, and they're going to call them terrorists and say, I think that you have nations like Qatar, like Saudi Arabia, that are aiding the rebels. And what you really have to do crack down on this funding and that's going to help with the political transition.

BERMAN: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has talked about her frustration over the fact there hasn't been a meaningful United Nations resolution on Syria. And she talked a little about what she intends to do about it. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: It is no secret that our attempts to move forward at the U.N. Security Council have been blocked repeatedly. On Tuesday I met with Joint Special Representative Brahimi to discuss alternative strategies, but the United States is not waiting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Alternative strategies. Any idea what they might be?

LABOTT: John, I think it's a lot more of what you've been seeing. As the Security Council has been deadlocked and unable to get some action, possibly sanctions, against the regime, basically what they're doing is planning for the day after. They're kind of strengthening the opposition. They say that one of the main problems is that the opposition isn't unified, so they're working on that. They're working on trying to plan for the day after, training both politicians, civil servants, to try to provide services in the event that the regime falls. And they're also trying to strengthen sanctions in lieu of the Security Council being able to impose sanctions. They're working with a lot of other countries just trying to strengthen the squeeze on the regime.

BERMAN: Secretary Clinton also committed some money. She pledged $30 million in aid to Syrians affected by the violence plus 15 million additional dollars in what they she calls non-lethal aid to help the opposition. Exactly where's that money going?

LABOTT: It's not going to the rebels; it's not going to arm the rebels or anything like that. It's going to these local groups on the ground that in some of these what they call "liberated areas", areas that the regime has kind of given up or ceded to the opposition, how do you provide services? How do you provide electricity? How do you provide baking bread for people in lieu of electricity? It's also kind of trying to help them prepare for the day in terms of a political transition, training journalists. It's all about trying to plan for the day after, if the regime would fall. But, as we see, that isn't happening and the violence continues. A lot of death there.

BERMAN: Sure does. All right. Foreign affairs reporter, Elsie Labott, thanks very much for joining us this morning. Zee?

SAMBOLIN: All right. Talk about the last laugh. Whitney Kropp, the Michigan teen who was nominated to her homecoming court as a joke, absolutely dazzled at the game on Friday and she had this to say to other bullied teens.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WHITNEY KROPP, BULLIED TEEN: If kids are bullying you, do not let them bring you down. Stand up for what you believe in and go with your heart and go with your gut. That's what I did.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Goodness, look at her.

KROPP: Look at me now. I'm just as happy as can be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: That is so fantastic. Whitney's supporters, including students from the visiting team, wore orange to the game. That is her favorite color. She also got a lot of support on Facebook from all over the world. And look at that, how she shines now.

BERMAN: I gotta say, I loved her spirit there. I loved what she said. You know --

SAMBOLIN: With such conviction. Right?

BERMAN: Such conviction. She's committed to it. I think we all believe in her now. So that's great.

SAMBOLIN: She looks great.

BERMAN: It is 47 minutes after the hour right now. Bonnie and Clyde's infamous gun collection up for auction and they'll go going for anything but a steal. We're talking big money. The details after this quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. 51 minutes past the hour. Let's get you up to date. Here's Christine Romans with our top stories.

ROMANS: Good morning to you this morning. You won't see a lot of Mitt Romney or President Obama over the next couple of days. The president is hunkered down in Nevada and Senator John Kerry is flying in to assist by playing the role of Romney in practice debates. The GOP nominee is - he's already in Denver preparing for the first of three presidential debates this Wednesday night. And you can watch it live on CNN.

Justices of the Supreme Court convene this morning at 10:00 to begin their new term. This term, the Court may hear cases on a number of divisive issues, including affirmative action, same-sex marriage, voting rights and abortion rights.

SAMBOLIN: Two guns held by Bonnie and Clyde when the outlaws went down in a hail of bullets back in 1934, they sold at auction for $504,000. Bonnie Parker's Colt .38 snub-nosed revolver went for $264 grand. Clyde Barrow's Colt .45 sold for $240,000.

ROMANS: Who bought them?

SAMBOLIN: The guns were the most prized possession of the notorious lovebird bandits and went for more than many had thought they would. Interesting, right?

ROMANS: No kidding. I'm very curious as to who bought them.

SAMBOLIN: Well, we'll find out.

ROMANS: Last week, replacement refs blew a call that cost the Green Bay Packers the game. Yesterday it almost happened again with the real refs. After Green Bay had taken a 28-27 fourth quarter lead against the Saints, the Saints clearly fumbled the kickoff, but the refs missed it. Green Bay had no challenges left. The Saints went to kick what would have been a go-ahead field goal, but a penalty forced them to kick again and they missed it and the Packers survived.

BERMAN: Can you imagine if the Packers goes hosed two weeks in a row by the replacement refs and the regular ones? But everything worked out like it should, thankfully.

SAMBOLIN: Thank goodness.

BERMAN: Tell me about it.

We want to get a check of your forecast. Let's go right to Rob Marciano.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hey, John. And now we can go back to hating the real refs like we did for years and years and years after missing them for so long.

Hey, listen, we got a lot of rain cross Texas. In some cases more rain in just three days than they had all of last year. Remember that awful, awful drought? Well, three, five, and four inches of rainfall in some of these places in West Texas - that is again, much more in some cases, than they had all of last year. So they'll take the rainfall.

Here's where it was, stretching across parts of Louisiana, including the Sabean River and stretching into areas that could still use the rain, including maybe parts of northern Georgia.

This little pink polygon, that is a tornado warning for Coosa County across central Alabama. Radar indicated, no reports on the ground. It may be rain wrapped, but a dangerous situation there. We'll watch it. But the rain shield spreading across the southern Appalachians into the Carolinas and that will bring in beneficial rain.

So kind of soggy Monday. Some spots may see thunderstorms that could be severe across parts of Atlanta and then cooler air.

John and guys, I don't know who I'm talking to.

SAMBOLIN: John and guys.

MARCIANO: John and gals, more politically incorrect? Cool weather coming at you.

BERMAN: Rob, thank you very much. We're all here for you. Thanks, Rob. Rob Marciano, and guys, in Atlanta. Thanks very much.

We have a jam-packed show for you the next hour here on EARLY START. How jam-packed? Well, we'll tell you about a massive recall at General Motors. Talking about tens of thousands of cars having fuel issues this morning.

And, oh, man, one of the stranger stories you'll hear about today, or ever. Ears growing on arms on purpose.

SAMBOLIN: Look, there's a preview for you. Come to the TV.

BERMAN: Yeah, I mean -

SAMBOLIN: This is incredible, John.

BERMAN: We cannot make this stuff up. Our medical unit is up bright and early to tell you why on earth that is happening. If you miss this, you will regret it forever. So much more coming up on CNN.

SAMBOLIN: That is -- I thought they were joking yesterday when then said this was a story we had this morning. That is incredible. I know you get to the talk to Elizabeth Cohen about that. I am looking forward to it.

So, but first, if you thought your morning was rough, pop superstar Justin Bieber, poor guy, gets sick twice onstage in front of tens of thousands of screaming fans. That story coming up and trending.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. 58 minutes after the hour. John Berman here along with Zoraida Sambolin taking a look at what is trending on the interwebs this morning.

SAMBOLIN: So John, who harassed who? Actress Lindsay Lohan says she was man handled by a congressional aide she met at a New York club and invited to her hotel room. She told police Chris LaBella, an aide to Republican John Shimkus is of Illinois, threw her down, choked her yesterday after she took away his cell phone camera. She said she didn't realize he had been taking pictures of her. Assault charges against him were dropped. Both filed harassment claims against each other.

BERMAN: That is all over the place.

All right. Talk about Bieber Fever? Pop star Justin Bieber kept on are performing even though he threw up twice during the kickoff of his national tour. Gross.

SAMBOLIN: Onstage?

BERMAN: Ah -- he even did an encore.

SAMBOLIN: That's disgusting.

BERMAN: Afterwards he tweeted he was getting betTER. And he added this movie from the movie "Anchorman", one of our favorites, he says: "Milk was a bad choice."

I can't believe he kept going. You know, you can't keep Bieber down, even if he can't keep his lunch down.

SAMBOLIN: Oh my gosh. That's awful. I didn't realize we were doing that at breakfast time on a morning show. Sorry about that, folks.

EARLY START continues right now.